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Speech by Gerry Adams at a Republican Commemoration marking the 25th Anniversary of the Death of Bobby Sands, (5 May 2006)

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Text: Gerry Adams... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Speech by Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin, at a Republican Commemoration Marking the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, Hackballscross, County Louth, (5 May 2006)


"Today 25 years ago Bobby Sands died on Hunger Strike. He was the first of ten republican prisoners to die that terrible summer. Almost 50 other people, among them three children struck by plastic bullets, died during that time. It is clear 25 years later that the hunger strikers hold a special place in the hearts of many people.

Their huge generosity of spirit, self sacrifice and unselfishness have made Bobby Sands and his 9 comrades role models for Irish republicans everywhere. Their titanic battle against great odds and over five difficult, harrowing years, caught the imagination and touched the hearts of millions.

The determination of the men in the H Blocks and the women prisoners in Armagh ultimately defeated the British government's criminalisation strategy. The enduring legacy of the hunger strikers is to be found all around us. Like the Easter Rising 65 years earlier it is a watershed in modern Irish history. The political growth of Sinn Féin and of Irish republicanism is in no small measure a result of their courage.

But more importantly, their legacy is to be found in the peace process and the positive transformation it has wrought in Irish society in recent years. That process of change continues. It is taking place every single day. For many the twenty-fifth anniversary of the deaths of the H Block hunger strikers will be a personal as well as a political time of remembrance. But for everyone interested in freedom and justice and peace in Ireland it is a time to reflect on the lessons of the past and to commit to continuing the struggle to achieve a free, democratic and united Ireland.

And I believe that we will succeed in doing that - not least because of the example set by Bobby Sands and his comrades. Bobby Sands commenced the hunger strike on 1 March I981. He was elected an MP and died on 5 May after 66 days without food.

He was followed by Francie Hughes, 59 days; Patsy O Hara, 61 days; Raymond McCreesh, 61 days; Joe McDonnell, 61 days; Martin Hurson, 46 days; Kevin Lynch, 71 days; Kieran Doherty, then a TD, 73 days; Tom McElwee, 62 days; and Michael Devine, 60 days.

In 1916 James Connolly wrote of the men and women of the Easter rising; "Never had man or woman a grander cause, never was a cause more grandly served". This remark could have been written for Bobby and his comrades.

Despite the great privations and brutal conditions Bobby never lost his faith in people or his determination to look to the future. Twenty-five years after his death Irish republicans face that future with confidence."


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